Waterfalls, wildlife, and lots of small-town charm await.

By Elizabeth Rhodes
June 03, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

With fascinating architecture, great museums, and plenty of delicious local eateries (deep dish pizza, anyone?), Chicago has a lot to offer tourists and residents alike. That said, we could all use an escape from the hustle and bustle of the Windy City every so often, so we’ve rounded up the best weekend getaways from Chicago. Whether you’re looking for beautiful landscapes or small-town charm, these weekend trips from Chicago are sure to please every type of traveler. Here are our top 10 weekend getaways from Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

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Wander through towering trees to find waterfalls and wildlife at Starved Rock State Park. This park, located on the Illinois River, is situated about an hour and a half from Chicago, making it the perfect choice when you want to trade skyscrapers for the great outdoors for the weekend. In the spring, the waterfalls are especially active, thanks to heavy rains, and in the fall, the leaves turn beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow. Stay within the state park at the Starved Rock Lodge, or opt to spend the night in nearby Ottawa, a charming little town with restaurants, shops, and more.

Indianapolis, Indiana

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Just a three-hour drive from Chicago, Indianapolis, affectionately referred to as “Indy” by locals, offers plenty to do. Kids will love the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Zoo, while sports fans will want to check out the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Broad Ripple neighborhood has nightlife, dining, shopping, and more, and the Massachusetts Avenue Arts District offers theaters, galleries, and independent boutiques. History lovers should book a stay in one of the 1920s Pullman train car rooms at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown-Union Station.

Saugatuck, Michigan

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Summer is the perfect time to visit this lakeside town, located just under two and a half hours from Chicago. Lounge on the sandy shores of Oval Beach or Saugatuck Dunes State Park, rent a boat and explore the lake, browse the art galleries, or check out the local breweries. After a day enjoying Lake Michigan’s most pristine beaches, rest your head at one of the adorable inns or bed-and-breakfasts in town.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

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For another nearby waterfront escape, head to beautiful Lake Geneva, located just an hour and a half from Chicago. During the summer, you can get out on the lake, sunbathe on its beaches, or go zip lining, along with other outdoor activities. During the winter, check out the Ice Castles, an awe-inspiring display of icicles.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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An hour and a half north of Chicago on Lake Michigan, you’ll find Milwaukee, a city teeming with great museums and better beer. Milwaukee has played a major role in U.S. beer production, with Pabst Brewing Company and Miller Crewing Company calling this city home. Today, you can toast to the city’s beer heritage by trying these classics or visiting one of the many local craft breweries. The Milwaukee Public Museum is a must-visit — it’s home to fossils, a European village, a full-size display recreating the streets of Milwaukee in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a butterfly garden, and more. Other sites worth visiting include the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Harley-Davidson Museum, and the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory.

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

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Just an hour from Chicago, Indiana Dunes National Park makes the perfect quick weekend getaway from Chicago. You can even squeeze it in for a day trip, if you’re short on time (it’s accessible from the South Shore Line, so you don’t even have to drive). This national park covers 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, making it ideal for a relaxing weekend away from the city. Go for a hike along the dunes, fly a kite on the beach, enjoy horseback riding, or check out the historic 1933 World's Fair Century of Progress Homes.

Madison, Wisconsin

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Wisconsin's capital city is just over two and a half hours from Chicago, and it offers something for every type of traveler. Food-loving folks will want to visit the National Mustard Museum and try fresh ice cream at the Sassy Cow Creamery, located 20 miles from Madison. Meanwhile, outdoorsy types will love kayaking or taking a cruise around the lake during the summer or snowshoeing in the winter. Families will want to check out the Madison Children’s Museum and the Children’s Theater of Madison for kid-friendly entertainment.

Holland, Michigan

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Holland, Michigan is a unique weekend getaway destination, located under three hours from Chicago. Taking its name from the region of the Netherlands, the city’s Dutch heritage is evident in its famous attractions like the Windmill Island Gardens, DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory, and Nelis’ Dutch Village. The yearly Tulip Time Festival is another great reason to visit Holland — six million tulips are planted across Holland, so visit in spring to see the beautiful flowers in bloom.

Wisconsin Dells

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For a family-friendly getaway, opt for a weekend trip to Wisconsin Dells, located about a three-hour drive from Chicago. This area, known as the “water park capital of the world,” is packed with attractions kids will love, like Noah’s Ark Water Park, the largest water park in the United States. To relax, take a scenic boat ride through the Dells or visit one of the local wineries and breweries.

Geneva, Illinois

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Just an hour outside of Chicago, you’ll find Geneva, Illinois, a destination perfect for people looking for a small town getaway. Wander the city, check out the murals and outdoor sculptures, take a stroll through the Fabyan Forest Preserve, and browse local, independent shops selling coffee, tea, chocolate, gelato, ice cream, popcorn, baked goods, and more.